The Mount of the Beatitudes sits on the top of a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. As we approach the park that now encloses the top of the hill, signs remind us to be silent because we are on holy ground. It was here on this very hill that Jesus sat down with his disciples and taught them about the Kingdom of God. Here in this place, as groups gather in various small clusters around the mount, one gets a feeling of what “Blessed” really means. The verses of Matthew 5 that capture the words of Jesus line the walkway as with hushed lips, we walk about the park. On steps near a scenic walkway in a quiet corner of the park, one of our groupmates reads the words of Matthew 5, reminding us that the meek, the peacemakers and the persecuted are blessed and honored by God.
Months later as I reflect on these words, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God,” I think of the words that are being said at the funeral of the Rev. Pinckney in Charleston, SC today, a fellow pastor who was killed during a prayer meeting. I remember that in that historic city, great men and women have risked their lives to proclaim peace in a society ridden by violence and terrorism. I know that even as I write, words proclaiming peace are being written and spoken around the world, but as Jesus reminded us so long ago, “I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33 Common English Bible). We do have distress, and almost 2000 years after those words were spoken by Jesus, we continue to see violence and strife in the world. Throughout centuries, founding church fathers and theologians proclaiming a Gospel of Peace have been met with crusades, persecution and even death. The Peace of Christ continues to bump up against the antagonistic world values where might is right and meek is weak.
At the foot of the Mount of the Beatitudes is a small chapel which holds only about 50 people at a time. As our group gathers into the intimate dimly-lighted chapel, we are hushed by the echoes of the voices of our group. Then with soft tones, we lift our voices in a hymn of praise to God. By the end of the hymn, the unified voices resound and echo in the sacred space. As we hear the voices of our neighbors united into a single voice, we remember that being children of God will not always be the easy path that bringing peace into tumultuous conflict will not always be possible, but together we are stronger than we are apart.
Today, we stand in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters around the world to pray for Peace. As our eyes are on Charleston, and our hearts are with the families of the victims, the words of Christ once again bring comfort and renewed hope: “In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” Thanks be to God.
Rev. Jan McCoy is the Associate Pastor of Covington First United Methodist Church in downtown Covington. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.covingtonfirst.org.